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Disneyland, measles, and parents’ choice not to vaccinate

Disneyland, measles, and parents’ choice not to vaccinate

A conversation with CA State Senator Dr. Richard Pan and Dr. Brittany Seymour

Tuesday, May 17, 2016 at 12:00 pm
Harvard Longwood Medical Campus
Harvard School of Dental Medicine REB Auditorium
188 Longwood Ave. Boston, MA 02115

This event is co-sponsored by the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, the Pershing Square Fund for Research on the Foundations of Human Behavior, and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

The social nature of today’s Internet has led to new public health and policy challenges. People are creating and sharing more information (and misinformation) online than ever before. In 2014, the US experienced the largest measles outbreak in nearly a generation, with many cases linked to unvaccinated Disneyland visitors. Misinformation online about vaccines was recognized as one of the contributing factors to this outbreak. Through the leadership of State Senator and pediatrician Dr. Richard Pan, California passed Senate Bill 277, which eliminated religious and personal belief exemptions to legally required vaccines for California school students. In this session, Dr. Pan will tell the story of his first hand experience managing the deadly 1991 measles outbreak in Philadelphia, which resulted in the death of nine children. He will speak about the spectrum of responses to his new legislation in CA, ranging from recognition as a TIME Hero in Vaccine History to death threats from local citizens. Communication researchers from MIT and Harvard will facilitate conversation as we tackle some of public health’s toughest questions. What role does the Internet play in influencing health and disease? How can public health experts prevent the spread of misinformation, and ensure better protection of our communities through improved health communication and strong evidence-based policies?

About Senator Pan

Dr. Richard Pan is a pediatrician, an HSPH alumni, former UC Davis educator, and California State Senator.  He is Chair of the Senate Committee on Public Employment and Retirement and the Senate Select Committee on Children with Special Needs, and he also serves on the Senate Committees on Agriculture, Budget and Fiscal Review, Education, and Health. TIME magazine called Dr. Pan a “hero” when he authored landmark legislation to abolish non-medical exemptions to legally required vaccines for school students, thereby restoring community immunity from preventable contagions.  Dr. Pan also authored one of the most expansive state laws regulating health plans eliminating denials for pre-existing conditions and prohibited discrimination by health status and medical history. He demands transparency and accountability in state health programs; holding hearings on reducing fraud, investigating poor access to dental care, and ensuring children with cancer and other serious conditions have access to pediatric specialty care. Dr. Pan provided leadership in enrolling families for health coverage, resulting in halving the number of uninsured in California, and he sponsored numerous health fairs providing resources including free glasses, dental screenings, and vaccines. Dr. Pan co-founded and served as chair of Healthy Kids Healthy Future, where he helped secure health, dental and vision coverage for over 65,000 children in the Sacramento area. For his leadership in education and community development, Dr. Pan has been recognized with the Campus Compact's Thomas Ehrlich Faculty Award for Service-Learning and the Physician Humanitarian Award from the Medical Board of California. Dr. Pan supports his wife, who is a dentist, in running her dental practice and continues to practice pediatrics at WellSpace Health in Oak Park, California.

About Brittany

 Dr. Brittany Seymour is an Assistant Professor at Harvard School of Dental Medicine in the Department of Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology and the Office of Global and Community Health. She has held Fellowships at the Harvard Global Health Institute, currently at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, and will hold a 2016 Harvard Medical School Academy Fellowship for Medical Education. Her overall research focus is in interdisciplinary approaches for health improvement at the global level through prevention, policy, and health promotion. Her current work focuses on public health information dissemination and public and community education.  Using network science and media modeling, she studies how digital information/misinformation and large online communication networks impact important public health programs such as community water fluoridation and childhood vaccinations.

Past Event
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
12:00 PM - 1:15 PM